May 25, 2015 by Megan
Our first singular shoot day, Day 11 took us to Beacon Rock State Park in the lush forested area along the Columbia River Gorge, a lesson in history and geology and full of incredible picture-taking opportunities. The campgrounds were so inviting, I wish we could have stayed longer, but it would be off to the coast for us after an afternoon of hiking here.
First up was the hike in to Rodney Falls and Hardy Falls, which we made as a family with Dane in his pack. The trail was gorgeous, offering views of the river below as we came out of the trees to wind around the mountain, before entering the overgrowth again to find these small but stunning waterfalls with accompanying fern and foliage. Hardy Falls was slightly larger, but the viewpoint was set far back and profile, so the achievable angle wasn’t that exciting.
From there we documented a few of the day use areas together, before splitting up to achieve the rest of the coverage before dusk: Rob and Dane covered the group camp and boat launch, and I got to tackle the hike up Beacon Rock itself.
Depending on who you ask, it could have been 52 or 57 switchbacks up the rock’s one mile trail… I didn’t take the time to count. What I did enjoy noting was the story of the rock, originally described by Lewis and Clark in 1805 as a “remarkable high detached rock.” Turns out they were looking at the 848-ft high core of a young volcano, who’s softer outer rock shell was beaten and washed away in the floods of the last Ice Age that crafted the Columbia River Gorge into what we see today. The remains of the “young” volcano’s final eruption could be as old as six million years!
Starting on the path I couldn’t help but admire the stonework and care in crafting such an accessible trail up to the top. Turns out, we have one man’s vision to thank, and he happens to be a descendant of the editor of the first edition Lewis and Clark Journals (1814). Henry J. Biddle, descendant of Nicholas Biddle, bought Beacon Rock for a whopping $1 in 1915. In Biddle’s own words, “My purpose in acquiring the property was simply and wholly that I might build a trail to the summit.” It took him three years to build the steep trail to the incredible views achievable at the top, and it is for his vision and his children’s generosity in donating the land to State Parks in 1935 that we all can enjoy the journey to the top today.
This experience really makes me reflect on the concept of legacy. Whether it be the generous act of donating land or dedicating volunteer hours, of committing labor to the parks in the historic CCC or as a contemporary Park Ranger, our parks are rich in the markings of citizens giving of themselves to allow others to more easily enjoy the natural wonders in our communities. Legacy for the sake of leaving the world somehow better than we found it is certainly a thought worth dwelling on.